November 04, 2007
The Real Frank Lucas
American Gangster is a good film, though probably not a great one. The New York magazine article detailing the life and times of Frank Lucas is, however, pretty remarkable:
Of the dozens of smuggling operations he ran from Asia, Frank still rates "the Henry Kissinger deal" as an all-time favorite. To hear Frank tell it, he and Ike were desperate to get 125 keys out of town, but there weren't any "friendly" planes scheduled leaving. "All we had was Kissinger. He was on a mercy mission on account of big cyclones in Bangladesh. We knew a cook on the plane and gave $100,000 to some general to look the other way. I mean, who the fuck is gonna search fucking Henry Kissinger's plane?
". . . Henry Kissinger! Wonder what he'd say if knew he helped smuggle all that dope into the country? . . . Hoo hahz poot zum dope in my aero-plan? Ha ha ha . . ."
And I wonder if Tyler Cowen has seen this bit showing how mega-retailers eke out efficiencies by being too big for gangsters too coerce:
A couple of days later, eating at a T.G.I. Friday's, Lucas scowled through glareproof glass to the suburban strip beyond. "Look at this shit," he said. A giant Home Depot down the road especially bugged him. Bumpy Johnson himself couldn't have collected protection from a damn Home Depot, he said with disgust. "What would Bumpy do? Go in and ask to see the assistant manager? Place is so big, you get lost past the bathroom sinks. But that's the way it is now. You can't find the heart of anything to stick the knife into."
Without offering any spoilers, at the film's start, this comment is repurposed as Bumpy Johnson lamenting the end of a certain era in Harlem -- now the stores aren't part of the community, and the people don't know you. Lucas, who actually said it, gives it a rather more sinister spin.
I don't recall the episode now, but there was a scene in an episode of the Sopranos where Patsy Parisi and a sidekick attempt to shake down a Starbuck's assistant manager, to no effect, which this brings to mind.
Posted by: mc_masterchef | Nov 4, 2007 1:08:57 PM
The post betrays a certain naivete. The big chains make the payments, it's just that the people they're paying off aren't stigmatized as gangsters. When a big chain pays an incompetent to have a country club membership and buy drinks for other incompetents, it's not seen as a racket or payoff, but the results in the city planning agency or county court can be just as devastating to law-abiding citizens.
And that's a very innocent example. Anyone familiar with a rural county can offer some less innocent examples.
Posted by: serial catowner | Nov 4, 2007 1:15:34 PM
The shift at the end, where certain people all of a sudden start working together, may have happened in real life. But it really hurt the pacing and feel of the film.
In other movie news, Gone Baby Gone is flawed but very good. It will make my top 10 of the year list. (That's usually trimmed down from 20-25 movies I really enjoyed per year. This year, I have four so far.)
And Dan in Real Life was slightly north of okay. It did convince me that I want to see more Juliette Binoche is romantic comedies. She can out the charming Julia Roberts in Julia Roberts-ness any day of the week.
Posted by: Mike | Nov 4, 2007 2:47:26 PM
Meant she can out Julia Roberts Julia Roberts. Not that that made more sense. My English not so good.
Posted by: Mike | Nov 4, 2007 2:48:35 PM
O damn! Julia Roberts would be so cute if she were outed.
Posted by: serial catowner | Nov 4, 2007 7:32:09 PM
There is an apocryphal story in which Louis Armstrong managed to finagle Richard Nixon into carrying his trumpet case (in which Armstrong kept his stash o' weed) through customs for him, betting that no one would ask the politician to search his luggage.
The story exists in multiple forms with multiple destinations during one of many years. Probably unlikely to be true, but it's a good story nonetheless.
Posted by: The Critic | Nov 5, 2007 11:31:58 AM
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